It’s said that the Stanley Cup is the toughest trophy to win in professional sports. To make it happen, NHL teams must survive four grueling rounds of playoffs and notch a total of 16 postseason wins along the way.
What’s challenging for the players translates into something rather extraordinary for fans. The NHL playoffs are one of the most entertaining events on the sporting calendar each year, and it all culminates with a series to determine the champion.
Thanks to the rise in legal and regulated sports betting here in the US, folks in a number of states across the nation — including at sportsbooks in Colorado — can get in on the action like never before.
Read on as we cover everything you need to know about betting on the Stanley Cup.
There are several different ways to bet on the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. Let’s take a quick look.
We’ll cover the last item on the list in full detail in a second. When you bet on the games, oddsmakers will post odds for both sides in the contest for you to choose from.
The above is an example of moneyline odds. The Avalanche are favored, as represented by negative odds. The Lightning are slight underdogs and have positive odds attached as a result.
There’s also what’s known as a puck line in hockey, which works just like a point spread. The line is almost always set at 1.5 goals. You can choose the favorite minus the goals, which means they have to win by an amount greater than that.
Alternatively, a bet on the underdog plus the goals means you can have a winning ticket on that side if the final margin is closer than that, or if the underdog wins the game outright.
Totals are also popular for hockey betting. Sportsbooks set the benchmark, which is often set at 5.5 goals for NHL games. Bettors then decide if they like the total number of goals scored to be over or under that amount.
When betting on series, the odds will be like what you see in a moneyline situation. At some operators, you’ll find options to bet on the winner of the series combined with how many games you expect it to go, such as Avalanche in six games.
Winner of series:
Last but not least, there will also be plenty of prop betting offerings for each game on the docket, as well as live betting opportunities to explore as they play out in real time. Add it all up, and you have a number of different ways to get in on the action of the Stanley Cup.
So which NHL teams have the best chance of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup when all is said and done? Thanks to the betting market, we can quickly get an answer to that question.
The futures market lists out odds for all teams as they remain in contention for the cup. Once the playoff field is set, the board is cut to the 16 teams that have qualified for the postseason.
You can place your bets at pretty much anytime when it comes to futures. Additionally, you’ll be able to place your bets on each game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs all the way on through to what will hopefully be an exciting Finals series.
Thanks to the futures market, you can place your bets on the winner of the Stanley Cup at virtually any time. In advance of the regular season, sportsbooks will release the odds for each of the league’s 31 teams.
Odds in the futures market are generally listed in descending order. The favorites are at the top of the list, followed by those in the mid-range, all the way down to the long shots at the bottom. Here’s what the board may look like for a handful of the favorites.
When placing bets in advance of the season or at any point during it, it’s important to remember that these are wagers that require a long-term perspective. If you make the right call, you won’t be able to cash in until the Stanley Cup Finals are over.
The general idea for futures bettors is to find the teams they like at the most attractive prices possible. For some bettors, that means scanning the odds board upon the initial release and making selections right then and there.
Others take a more active approach and remain engaged with the futures market throughout the season by pouncing on attractive opportunities as they come up.
As you can see by the positive odds in our example, there’s a potential for some nice profits. In addition to being potentially profitable, the futures market makes for a great research tool as it’s an easy way to gain a sense of public perception of each of the league’s teams in an instant.
After the initial release of Stanley Cup odds, the betting public has its chance to weigh in. That can lead to some changes on the odds board. For example, if a team attracts a good amount of action, then its odds may lessen.
It’ll be the reverse for teams that prove to be not too popular in terms of bets. Let’s consider an example using three hypothetical favorites. Here’s what their odds might look like upon release:
After some time has passed, a good amount of money comes in on the Bruins and Avalanche, but there hasn’t been much interest in the Lightning. That leads oddsmakers to tweak the odds a bit to something like this.
The odds for the popular Bruins and Avalanche have lessened, but the number has moved up on the Lightning side.
At the end of the day, sportsbooks are looking to limit their liability. In order to do so, they can massage the odds here and there in a bid to even things out. That means they’ll make popular choices less attractive while doing the opposite for those that aren’t seeing enough attention.
The odds can also adjust for teams that go on better or worse runs than the odds board may have initially anticipated. For example, let’s say that the Toronto Maple Leafs are somewhere in the middle of the pack at odds of +1200.
The season moves along and the Leafs go on quite a run and rip off an impressive winning streak. Bettors begin to flock to Toronto as potential contenders, and the team’s odds adjust as a result, say from +1200 to +1000.
The futures market is quite active and interesting to watch as a result. Those who have a knack for spotting dark horse contenders can find a lot to like here as well.
Consider this: since the turn of the century, there has only been a back-to-back winner of the Stanley Cup once. That was the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team that captured the hardware in 2016 and 2017.
While there have been a number of memorable and impressive teams over the past two decades, the favorite to win it all doesn’t necessarily always come through. Keep that in mind as you explore the futures market for opportunities.
Once the playoffs get underway, there can be even more movement based on things such as injuries, overall team performance, matchups in subsequent rounds and general betting interest.
At the conclusion of the NHL’s regular season, 16 of the league’s 31 teams qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. The postseason is a tournament style competition with four teams seeded from one through four in newly realigned divisions for the 2021 season – North, West, Central and East.
There are four rounds of the playoffs in total, each of which is contested in best-of-seven fashion. To advance through rounds, teams need to win four games in the series over their opponent.
What starts out with 16 teams in the first round drops down to eight squads for the second round. The winners of those four intradivisional series advance to the Stanley Cup Semifinals, where the four remaining teams are re-seeded based on their regular season records and play with the top seed squaring off against the fourth seed, and the second vs. third seeds.
Once those two series are in the books, the winners of the Semifinals square off for the right to hoist the Stanley Cup when all is said and done. Note that with this year’s divisional playoff structure, it’s possible that two teams that traditionally play in the same conference could meet up in the Stanley Cup Finals.
As mentioned, the favorite at the top of the odds board is no sure thing when it comes to winning the Stanley Cup. The NHL playoffs as a whole are grueling. Upsets can and will happen regardless of round, and teams that get hot at the right time can ride an unexpected wave of momentum.
Looking back in the annals of NHL history, here’s a look at some of the teams that really shocked the world.
The Avalanche came into existence in 1995 when the Quebec Nordiques relocated and set up shop in the Mile High City. The NHL returned to Colorado after more than a decade. Back in 1982, the Colorado Rockies took their talents to New Jersey, where they would go on to become the Devils.
The Rockies played in Colorado for six years beginning in 1976. The team never achieved liftoff in Denver, qualifying for the postseason just once before leaving town.
When the former Nordiques came to town, optimism was high. A few years prior, Quebec was an also-ran in league circles, but fortunes changed in a hurry. Years of drafting highly and a massive haul for trading Eric Lindros to the Philadelphia Flyers quickly transformed the team into a contender.
The Avalanche lived up to expectations and then some for the inaugural season in Colorado. The club racked up 104 regular season points and entered the playoffs as the second seed in the Western Conference. After upsetting the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings in the conference finals, the club would go on to sweep the Florida Panthers to win the Cup.
Colorado, led by stars such as Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, was a perennial contender and would go on to win its second Stanley Cup in 2001, defeating the defending champion Devils in a thrilling seven-game series.
That still stands as the last Cup won by the Avalanche. However, the team looks in line to be a contender out of the Western Conference in the coming years with a strong nucleus of players, led by the impressive Nathan MacKinnon.
There have been a number of upsets in the Stanley Cup playoffs through the years, and we don’t have to go too far back to find perhaps the most stunning of them all. Let’s take a look at some unexpected victories that quickly shook up the landscape of the NHL postseason.
The Lightning had won the Presidents Trophy as the league’s best team in the regular season. They were expected to advance with ease to round two, but Columbus had other ideas. A 7-3 victory in game four served as the capper for one of the most stunning sweeps in NHL history.
The Oilers of the ’80s were one of the most impressive teams ever constructed in the history of the NHL. The legendary club would go on to win five Cups, but there were some growing pains to be had before getting there. For this matchup, Edmonton faced off with a Kings team that it had outperformed by 48 points in the regular season. That turned out not to mean all that much when the Kings skated to a five-game series win.
By the time we got to the early 2000s, the script had flipped. The Oilers’ run of success was a memory, while Detroit was generally regarded as the top franchise in the NHL. Entering the playoffs as an eight seed, Edmonton was viewed as a speed bump for the Red Wings. The Oilers saw things differently and took them out in six games, beginning a playoff run that would end with a loss in the Cup finals to the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Avalanche are a perfect two for two when they’ve made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, but how have the rest of the NHL’s teams fared? Let’s take a look.
|#||Team||Appearances||Wins||Last Appearance||Last Win|
|2.||Toronto Maple Leafs||21||13||1967||1967|
|3.||Detroit Red Wings||24||11||2009||2008|
|8.||New York Rangers||11||4||2014||1994|
|9.||New York Islanders||5||4||1984||1983|
|10.||New Jersey Devils||5||3||2012||2003|
|19.||Tampa Bay Lightning||3||2||2020||2020|
|12.||Los Angeles Kings||3||2||2014||2014|
|15.||St. Louis Blues||4||1||2019||2019|
The following seven franchises have made it to the Stanley Cup finals, but they have never been able to hoist the trophy. Here are those squads and their records in the finals and year of last appearance.
The following four teams have never reached the Stanley Cup finals.
The Stanley Cup playoffs begin at the conclusion of the regular season, which typically happens in the beginning of April. The NHL postseason is a lengthy one that lasts around two months, with the Stanley Cup Finals coming in June.
For the 2021 season, the playoffs will begin at the end of the condensed season on May 8, and the Stanley Cup will be awarded in July.
While Las Vegas still holds the mantle of “Sports Betting Capital of the World,” Sin City no longer holds a monopoly on the best betting odds. Leading NHL betting sites service a number of legalized states, including Colorado, and the odds they release are in line with what you’ll find out in Vegas.
For the futures market, odds to win the Stanley Cup are released in advance of the season. Bettors can place their wagers on teams in contention throughout the season and even into the postseason when the field is cut. As for the Stanley Cup Finals series, odds are released once the pairing is finalized, and each game of the series will have its own set of odds.
The Stanley Cup Finals is a best-of-seven playoff series. The first team to win four games wins the series. At a minimum, the series will be four games, while the longest it can go is the full seven games. The same holds true for all rounds of the NHL playoffs, as each series is contested in a best-of-seven format.